Category Archives: Uncategorized

Quick hit: Maryam Mirzakhani wins the Fields Medal

Image of Maryam Mirzakhani

CC-BY-SA 3.0 image by Ehsan Tabari

The Fields Medal is the highest award in the field of mathematics. Some people have called it the math equivalent of the Nobel Prize, though it’s not a perfect analogy since Fields medalists must be younger than 40 years old. Fifty people received the Fields Medal between 1936 and 2010 (the award is given every four years to between two and four mathematicians). All of them were men.

Today, Stanford math professor Maryam Mirzakhani (born in 1977) became the first woman, and the first person of Iranian descent, to win the Fields Medal. (It was also awarded to Artur Avila, Manjul Bhargava, and Martin Hairer.) Her work lies in the intersection of geometry, topology, and dynamical systems.

You can read more about Dr. Mirzakhani in a profile of her by Erica Klarreich:

Mirzakhani likes to describe herself as slow. Unlike some mathematicians who solve problems with quicksilver brilliance, she gravitates toward deep problems that she can chew on for years. “Months or years later, you see very different aspects” of a problem, she said. There are problems she has been thinking about for more than a decade. “And still there’s not much I can do about them,” she said.

Mirzakhani doesn’t feel intimidated by mathematicians who knock down one problem after another. “I don’t get easily disappointed,” she said. “I’m quite confident, in some sense.”

Extremely Loud and Incredibly Linkspam (12th August, 2014)

  • this has been going on a long time | Filling the Well (August 6): “Women have always spoken out against sexism and the injustice done to them for no other reason than their identity as women.” Quotes from outspoken feminists throughout the ages.
  • Twitter Won’t Stop Harassment on Its Platform, So Its Users Are Stepping In (August 6): “The network tells abused individuals to shut up (‘abusive users often lose interest once they realize that you will not respond’), unfollow, block, and—in extreme cases—get off Twitter, pick up the phone, and call the police. Twitter opts to ban abusive users from its network only when they issue ‘direct, specific threats of violence against others.’ That’s a criminal standard stricter than the code you’d encounter at any workplace, school campus, or neighborhood bar.”
  • Why are the media so obsessed with female scientists’ appearance? | theguardian.com (August 10): “Yet another profile of Susan Greenfield feels the need to dwell on her ‘long, youthfully blond hair’. Why are the media so rubbish at covering women in science?”
  • In Science, It Matters That Women Come Last | FiveThirtyEight (August 5): “The news is both good and bad. When a female scientist writes a paper, she is more likely to be first author than the average author on that paper. But she is less likely to be last author, writes far fewer papers and is especially unlikely to publish papers on her own. Because she writes fewer papers, she ends up more isolated in the network of scientists, with additional consequences for her career.”
  • Five Aussie women with apps to their name | the age (August 9): “Apple alone has clocked more than 1.2 million apps and 75 billion user downloads from its App Store worldwide, while Google Play lists 1.3 million apps. Most of those, people assume, were built by men. But for women, who’ve long been a minority group in the tech sector, the apps market is proving fertile, according to Miriam Hochwald, founder of Girl Geek Coffees, a networking group.”
  • Backing diversity lowers the bar? | SC Magazine (August 4): “when we as an industry only make room for “tough” people, people who are willing to put up with sexist, racist, ageist, ableist and LGBTQ-phobic behavior, we pass up brilliant minds and incredible talent. Some of the smartest people I know are not people that would be described as alpha. When you pass them up because they’re not exactly what you had in mind, you’re the one losing out.”

We link to a variety of sources, some of which are personal blogs.  If you visit other sites linked herein, we ask that you respect the commenting policy and individual culture of those sites.

You can suggest links for future linkspams in comments here, or by using the “geekfeminism” tag on Pinboard, Delicious or Diigo; or the “#geekfeminism” tag on Twitter. Please note that we tend to stick to publishing recent links (from the last month or so).

Thanks to everyone who suggested links.

The Linkspam Who Rides Like a Man (10th August, 2014)

We link to a variety of sources, some of which are personal blogs.  If you visit other sites linked herein, we ask that you respect the commenting policy and individual culture of those sites.

You can suggest links for future linkspams in comments here, or by using the “geekfeminism” tag on Pinboard, Delicious or Diigo; or the “#geekfeminism” tag on Twitter. Please note that we tend to stick to publishing recent links (from the last month or so).

Thanks to everyone who suggested links.

GF classifieds (August and September 2014)

This is another round of Geek feminism classifieds. Sorry we missed July! If you’re looking to hire women, find some people to participate in your study, find female speakers, or just want some like-minded folk to join your open source project, this is the thread for you!

Here’s how it works:

  1. Geeky subjects only. We take a wide view of geekdom, but if your thing isn’t related to an obviously geeky topic, you’ll probably want to give a bit of background on why the readers of Geek Feminism would be interested.
  2. Explain what your project/event/thing is, or link to a webpage that provides clear, informative information about it. Ideally you’ll also explain why geek women might find it particularly awesome.
  3. Explain what you’re looking for. Even if it’s not a job ad, think of it like one: what is the activity/role in question, and what would it involve? What is the profile of people you’re looking for?
  4. GF has international readership, so please be sure to indicate the location if you’re advertising a job position, conference, or other thing where the location matters. Remember that city acronyms aren’t always known world-wide and lots of cities share names, so be as clear as possible! (That is, don’t say “SF[O]” or “NYC” or “Melb”, say “San Francisco, USA”, “New York City, USA” or “Melbourne, Australia”.) And if you can provide travel/relocation assistance, we’d love to know about it.
  5. Keep it legal. Most jurisdictions do not allow you to (eg.) advertise jobs for only people of a given gender. So don’t do that. If you are advertising for something that falls into this category, think of this as an opportunity to boost the signal to women who might be interested.
  6. If you’re asking for participants in a study, please note Mary’s helpful guide to soliciting research participation on the ‘net, especially the “bare minimum” section.
  7. Provide a way for people to contact you, such as your email address or a link to apply in the case of job advertisements. (The email addresses entered in the comment form here are not public, so readers won’t see them.)
  8. Keep an eye on comments here, in case people ask for clarification or more details. (You can subscribe to comments via email or RSS.)

If you’d like some more background/tips on how to reach out to women for your project/event/whatever, take a look at Recruiting women on the Geek Feminism Wiki.)

Good luck!

The Linkspam of J. Alfred Prufrock (8th August, 2014)

We link to a variety of sources, some of which are personal blogs.  If you visit other sites linked herein, we ask that you respect the commenting policy and individual culture of those sites.

You can suggest links for future linkspams in comments here, or by using the “geekfeminism” tag on Pinboard, Delicious or Diigo; or the “#geekfeminism” tag on Twitter. Please note that we tend to stick to publishing recent links (from the last month or so).

Thanks to everyone who suggested links.

Madison Young, rape apologism, and HackerMoms

[Content warning: sexual assault, rape apologism, victim-blaming]

Madison Young describes herself as “a sex positive Tasmanian devil”; she’s been active in the feminist porn community for some time, and founded the Femina Potens art space in San Francisco. She’s also on the steering committee for Mothership HackerMoms, serving as their director of programming. Mothership HackerMoms describes themselves as “the first-ever women’s hackerspace in the world”.

Last week, a video resurfaced that Young, along with Billie Sweet, made after the filming of their movie “Heartland: a Woman’s POV”. “Heartland” was nominated for a Feminist Porn Award, but the clip (which appears to no longer be available online) probably wouldn’t win any feminist awards. In it, Young — an alum of Antioch College — discusses having sex with another student at Antioch while both women were drunk. She observes that this encounter violated Antioch’s much-misunderstood SOPP (Sexual Offense Prevention Policy), which requires people on campus to ensure that explicit consent is present before initiating a particular sex act. She goes on to deride the SOPP — this isn’t exactly an original sentiment, but what I think we’re meant to take away from the dialogue is that clearly, Madison Young couldn’t possibly be a rapist. And therefore, the SOPP — a policy that she violated by initiating a sex act with someone who was too intoxicated to consent — must be ridiculous, since what kind of policy would censure someone like her for having some innocent undergrad fun?

Young issued an apology for the video and for her initial — highly defensive — comments on Twitter when the video resurfaced. But as Kitty Stryker at Consent Culture does a great job of explaining in her post “Consent, Critique, & Feminist Porn: Madison Young’s Hard Lesson”, the apology itself is still very defensive. In it, Young does not demonstrate understanding of why it was wrong for her to indulge in victim-blaming rhetoric, both in the original video and in her comments about it in July 2014.

I find it especially worrisome that Young characterizes a code of conduct that simply seeks to affirm the need for sexual consent as “censorship”: “Although SOPP is an extreme policy around consent, that came out of the now defunct Antioch College, I do applaud its effort. Like many things that were generated from Antioch College it started with good intentions but went too far to extremes to be useful and effective in practice. There was an inherent policing at Antioch that bordered on censorship.” (n.b. Antioch College is not, in fact, defunct.)

Can a hackerspace be a safe space if one of its organizers is somebody who styles herself as a consent advocate while engaging in derailing and victim-blaming speech about sexual assault? If you are directly involved with HackerMoms, I encourage you to start that dialogue.

Guns, Germs, and Linkspam (5th August, 2014)

We link to a variety of sources, some of which are personal blogs.  If you visit other sites linked herein, we ask that you respect the commenting policy and individual culture of those sites.

You can suggest links for future linkspams in comments here, or by using the “geekfeminism” tag on Pinboard, Delicious or Diigo; or the “#geekfeminism” tag on Twitter. Please note that we tend to stick to publishing recent links (from the last month or so).

Thanks to everyone who suggested links.

Fermat’s Last Linkspam (3 August 2014)

We link to a variety of sources, some of which are personal blogs.  If you visit other sites linked herein, we ask that you respect the commenting policy and individual culture of those sites.

You can suggest links for future linkspams in comments here, or by using the “geekfeminism” tag on Pinboard, Delicious or Diigo; or the “#geekfeminism” tag on Twitter. Please note that we tend to stick to publishing recent links (from the last month or so).

Thanks to everyone who suggested links.

A Song of Ice and Linkspam

We link to a variety of sources, some of which are personal blogs.  If you visit other sites linked herein, we ask that you respect the commenting policy and individual culture of those sites.

You can suggest links for future linkspams in comments here, or by using the “geekfeminism” tag on Pinboard, Delicious or Diigo; or the “#geekfeminism” tag on Twitter. Please note that we tend to stick to publishing recent links (from the last month or so).

Thanks to everyone who suggested links.

To be or not to be, that is the linkspam (29 July 2014)

  • Dr who? Campaign to boost digital profile of Australia’s female scientists | The Age (July 29): “According to web information company Alexa, Wikipedia is the sixth-most popular website globally. Yet even Wikipedia admits to a systematic bias when it comes to women in science, describing the subject as ‘’woefully under-represented’’. Next month, the Australian Academy of Science plans to change that, hosting a Women of Science ‘’Wikibomb’’ event inspired by a similar call to arms by the Royal Society, London.”
  • This Is What Tech’s Ugly Gender Problem Really Looks Like | WIRED (July 28): “Shortly after Kathryn Tucker started RedRover, an app that showcases local events for kids, she pitched the idea to an angel investor at a New York tech event. But it didn’t go over well. When she finished her pitch, the investor said he didn’t invest in women.”
  • Checking Your Privilege: A How-To for Hard Things | Leslie Hawthorn at OSCON 2014 | Youtube (July 23): “The reason that systemic problems are so difficult and so insidious, is because when you are a participant in a system, when you are a user of a system and all of the defaults are configured to work for you out of the box, it never occurs to you that those defaults even exist.”
  • When Does a Woman Owe You Sex? Check This Chart | Identities.Mic (July 22): “Microsoft Excel took a turn for the explicit this week when the Internet learned the once-innocuous office tool was being used in a dispiriting new bro-trend: tracking the number of times their partners refuse sex. Yes, #sexspreadsheets are a thing, presumably because some men still believe that owning a penis entitles them to unlimited sexy times. [...] The many falsehoods propagated at every turn have driven us to put together a helpful chart that may help clear up any uncertainties regarding when women owe it to anyone to have sex”
  • “Females” in Open Source, by Amber Wu | Model View Culture (July 21): “Sexism is so deeply ingrained in tech’s unbalanced demographics that making a point of not being a misogynist is practically countercultural. Unseating those biases to the point where codes of conduct are normal and our spaces are widely safer will take huge forces of change. “
  • How can tech companies diversify their workforces? | Marketplace.org (July 24): “Twitter is the latest tech company to disclose statistics on the race and gender of its workforce, following Facebook, Yahoo, Google and LinkedIn. Like those companies, Twitter is falling short on diversity.”
  • Getting hired without getting burned: Sniffing for culture smells | Liz Abinante (July 24): “It is incredibly difficult to find a good place to work. With companies that fire women after they announce that they’re pregnant, intimidate women into leaving, hire people who think it’s ok to compare women to programming tools, and have abysmally low diversity numbers (although at 10% women in tech, I am no longer surprised by Twitter’s terrible block policy), it’s surprisingly easy to end up working in a toxic environment.”
  • The Mary Sue Exclusive Interview: Mike Mearls and Jeremy Crawford on Acknowledging Sexuality and Gender Diversity in D&D | The Mary Sue (July 24): “Mike Mearls and Jeremy Crawford, lead designers of the latest edition of Dungeons & Dragons, out in a staggered release all this summer and fall, talk about the mechanics of inclusive gaming, Gen Con diversity panels, realistic artwork, and the decision to “look at the wonderfully diverse group of people who play the game and say, ‘There’s a place for each of you at the game table’” with the system’s new suggestions for roleplaying gender and sexuality.”
  • Virginia E. Johnson, Scientist: Beyond “Masters of Sex” | The Toast (July 23): “The 2013 Showtime television show Masters of Sex introduced viewers to William H. Masters (1915–2001) and Virginia E. Johnson (1925–2013), two of the best-known American sex researchers of the twentieth century. [...] But the television show fails to address why and how she has become the person that she became, and why she chose to devote her life and career to sex research with a difficult and demanding man.”
  • Women and Minority Leaders Are Penalized For Fostering Diversity, Study Finds | Mashable (July 18): “Women and minorities don’t shy away from hiring their peers out of fear of the competitive threat they may pose, but rather out of fear of the retribution they may incur, new research suggests. The reason they are so reluctant to hire other women and ethnic minorities is because they are often penalized by their bosses for doing so, according to a study to be presented at next month’s annual meeting of the Academy of Management.”
  • Women in the Sciences Report Harassment and Assault | Julienne Rutherford at Huffington Post (July 24): “We, like many other scientists, had heard the stories, shared via email, on blogs, whispered in the corners of hotel conference rooms. Harrowing stories of sexual harassment and assault during one of the most important stages of professionalization in the sciences: fieldwork. [...] We set out to explore more deeply the pervasiveness of these experiences and the results we published in PLOS ONE on July 16, 2014 are a sobering wake-up call.”
  • Comic-Con’s dark side: Harassment amid the fantasy | The Washington Post (July 27): “Geeks for CONsent, founded by three women from Philadelphia, gathered nearly 2,600 signatures on an online petition supporting a formal anti-harassment policy at Comic-Con.”

We link to a variety of sources, some of which are personal blogs. If you visit other sites linked herein, we ask that you respect the commenting policy and individual culture of those sites.

You can suggest links for future linkspams in comments here, or by using the “geekfeminism” tag on Pinboard, Delicious or Diigo; or the “#geekfeminism” tag on Twitter. Please note that we tend to stick to publishing recent links (from the last month or so).

Thanks to everyone who suggested links.